The countdown is on for the three-nation International Challenge showdown, with New Zealand today unveiling its squad to take on Australia and Team USA, when the historic bike racers meet at Phillip Island next weekend, January 25-27. The Challenge is the headline event of 26th annual International Island Classic, presented by Visit Phillip Island, and the Kiwi announcement unveils some stunning additions to the start list.
The Kiwis have capitalised on their long-term relationship with gun racer, Alex Phillis, and the Taupo-based Carl Cox Motorsport – the motorsport arm of international DJ Carl Cox – to strengthen their ranks against defending champion, Australia, and Team USA.
Carl Cox’s Kiwi outfit brings with him three-time British superbike champion John Reynolds, ‘modern’ and classic racer Jay Lawrence, and Michael Neeves, the senior road tester at iconic UK publication MCN.
The Kiwis have also sought dispensation for two 1985 Suzuki GSX-Rs for the Carl Cox camp to run, with approvals being given this week by team captains from arch rivals Australia and the USA.
One year outside the Island Classic eligibility, the two Suzukis will be subject to agreed performance restrictions- comprising of a reduction in RPM limit, an overall weight increase and a reduced rear tyre width to eliminate any possible traction advantage.
To be campaigned by Reynolds and Neeves, the duo’s performance will be counted in International Challenge points, but not in the tally for the Ken Wootton Perpetual Trophy that’s awarded to the rider with the highest individual points.
Suzukis dominate the Kiwi machinery line-up. The team features seven riders who rode for New Zealand at the 2018 International Challenge: team captain Duncan Coutts, Brendan Wilson, Glenn Hindle, Roger Gunn, Simon Richards, Matt Ineson and Campbell Stevenson. Pete Byers, Peter Jones, Glenn Crutchley and Dean Castleton make up the 15-rider list.
Reynolds, 55, is a true champion, winning three British superbike titles (in 1992, 2001 and 2004) in a career which also saw him compete in 500 GP and world superbike competition. He now works with Suzuki Great Britain (GB) as an ambassador, competing in the European Classic Endurance Series, testing for Suzuki Japan and teaching at corporate track days.
“We’re coming to the Island Classic, because Suzuki GB and Team Classic Suzuki have a great relationship with Carl Cox Motorsport and we think the Aussies will love seeing these Suzukis in action.
Carl was running the Katanas at the Classic TT last August with Jay Lawrence, we started talking about coming down under to compete with Carl’s Kiwi team, and it kind of snowballed from there.
We’re ready to race. The Australian and US teams are strong, but I will be trying my hardest to rattle their cages.”
Said Reynolds from his Nottinghamshire base.
Reynolds won a world superbike race in 2000, finishing ahead of Aussie Troy Bayliss at a wet Brands Hatch. He also won a whopping 37 British superbike races, but called it quits from racing full-time after a big crash in the final stages of the 2005 season.
He’s competed at Phillip Island once: in 1996 when he finished with 11-10 finishes in the two world superbike races.
“I was with the Factory Suzuki team and it was a great weekend, but it ended with me punting Peter Goddard off the track on the last lap at Honda while he was 3rd and we were both desperate for a podium. My strategic manoeuvre did not work though. Peter as you can imagine was not very happy with me, and rightly so, but we soon made up.”
Phillis, 24, has a solid relationship with the Kiwis. He won the 2017 New Zealand TT on an MV Agusta as part of the Wanaka-based Helicraft Racing team, which also took the young Australian to compete in America that same year.
Of late, Phillis was the leading privateer in the 2018 Australian Superbike Championship, and tasted victory at Phillip Island’s International Challenge when he defeated UK star Jeremy McWilliams in a straight shootout in 2017’s fourth and final race.
Phillis then missed the 2018 International Challenge, but he will return to action on January 25 aboard the Suzuki XR69 F1 bike which he did so much damage on in 2017 – but this time he will race for New Zealand instead of his native Australia.
“New Zealand has given me a lot of opportunities to further my road racing career, so this is a good way to pay them back.
I have also had Kiwi mechanics over the journey, I rode for Rod Price with Helicraft and I’ve got to know team captain, Duncan Coutts well in recent years. We’ve a strong team and we’ll be in the mix.”
Australia’s team includes David Johnson, Shawn Giles, Steve Martin, Cameron Donald, Beau Beaton and Jed Metcher, while America has bolstered its stocks with four-time AMA superbike champion Josh Hayes, Steve Rapp, Mark Miller, Dale Quarterley and Larry Pegram, who will join 2018 fast man Jason Pridmore.
New Zealand, Australia and Team USA can field a maximum of 13 riders in the four six-lap International Challenge races. After federal legislation banned the use of AVGAS in Australia, MA has homologated two new fuels for use being Roo 99 and Elf LMS.
In a first for the International Challenge, the 2019 event will be filmed and made into a two-hour television program set to be broadcast around the globe. Screen agreements have been reached with networks in Europe, UK, America, Asia, New Zealand and Australia. Locally, the event will be screened on Fox Sports and SBS in February.
The Island Classic, now in its 26th year, isn’t just about the three-nation battle, with the event a pilgrimage for so many riders and spectators as they celebrate a century of motorcycling. There will be 56 races held across the weekend, catering for pre-WW1 bikes through to Vintage (1920-1945), Classic and Post Classic (from 1946 to 1972) and the more recent Forgotten Era and New Era classes. Close to 500 bikes will either be racing or on display.
Tickets for the 26th International Island Classic, presented by Visit Phillip Island, are available at islandclassic.com.au. A three-day adult ticket, purchased in advance, is just $82, and free for children 15 and under (accompanied by a full-paying adult). You can camp at the circuit for four nights for just over $20 per night (with kids once again free).
Tickets can also be purchased at the gate, but save by buying in advance.
INTERNATIONAL CHALLENGE – TEAM NEW ZEALAND
Capitan: Duncan Coutts
|7||John Reynolds||Carl Cox Motorsport / Team Classic Suzuki||Suzuki||GSXR||1985||1100|
|9||Dean Castleton||T-Rex Racing||Honda||CB1100R||1981||1100|
|20||Alex Phillis||Arnolds Fruit Market, Phillis Racing||Suzuki||XR69||1980||1170|
|33||Michael Neeves||Carl Cox Motorsport||Suzuki||GSXR||1985||1100|
|37||Jay Lawrence||Carl Cox Motorsport / TSS Red Baron / Shoei Helmets||Suzuki||Katana GSX1100||1981||1100|
|50||Glenn Hindle||Goulburn Power Centre / Old Gold Motorcycles||Suzuki||XR69||1982||1170|
|54||Brendan Wilson||Moto Xtream NZ / Stainless Steel Products / DeWith Motorsport||Suzuki||XR69||1980||1170|
|58||Duncan Coutts||Yamaha||CMR F1||1984||1250|
|73||Glenn Crutchley||Kallista Electrical||Kawasaki||P&M||1978||1200|
|107||Roger Gunn||Spice Consulting Group | Sunset Racing||Harris||F1||1982||1260|
|114||Campbell Stevenson||Stevenson Earthworks Ltd||Suzuki||GS1000E||1979||1000|
|211||Simon Richards||Motoxtreme Racing||Suzuki||GSX1100||1981||1170|
|427||Pete Byers||Silkdene Australia / Motoextreme Kawasaki||Suzuki||Katana||1982||1100|
|741||Peter Jones (PJ)||Lindsay Pinker Racing Team / Techmoto||Honda||CB1100||1982||1123|
For more information contact the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit on 03 5952 2710 or visit islandclassic.com.au
*All prices quoted are advance tickets which end midday Wednesday, January 23, 2019. Buy advance and save. Gate ticket prices are additional.